Literature and Marxism in Latin America: for a broader approach to literature's emancipatory potential

Laura Lema Silva


Stream: Latin America and Marxism(s)

Can Marxism provide a better understanding of literature’s emancipatory potential in Latin America? Can it broaden decolonial critical perspectives on literature?
Decoloniality approaches towards Latin American literary history grant an epistemological privilege to the subaltern subjects. By grounding the criticism on the importance of the locus of enunciation, literature is mostly approached as an object of representation. Therefore, its emancipatory potential depends on literature’s capacity to make the subaltern’s local histories and structures of knowledge, hidden by a modern/colonial hegemonic epistemology, explicit. As a consequence, testimonial literature is conceived as the emancipatory literary genre par excellence. But, is literature’s critical potential limited to the representation of a subject? We intend to defend that literature’s creative critical power is not the privilege of a particular literary genre, but is granted by literature’s internal conflictuality; literature is indeed a linguistic political battlefield. We believe that the critical potential of literature as an object of creation can be seized from a Marxist perspective. Indeed, Latin-American thinkers such as José Carlos Mariátegui grant a special attention to the political power of aesthetics. Mariátegui’s reflection on avant-garde literature and surrealism in Latin America is particularly stimulating and allows broadening the Latin American critical literary corpus. In fact, the author opens a reflection on the critical potential of previous literary movements – such as magical realism – instead of assuming, in decolonial fashion, that they are only the continuation of hegemonic modern epistemologies seeking domesticate subaltern differences. A Marxist perspective can also contribute to a reflection on which concepts better account for emancipation through literature in Latin America. In this order of ideas we believe that a reflection on languages’ becoming-minoritarian allows making explicit new forms of resistance through literature in Latin America by insisting on the use of language. This allows going beyond a definition of literature as a representational object, whose emancipatory potential only relies on its author’s biography.

Laura Lema Silva
PhD candidate – Université Lumière Lyon II
Head coordinator of the Andean hub based in Bogotá – Institut des Amériques

Emancipation - Decoloniality - Marxism - literature